Student playwright Lila Durrett muses on a strange homework assignment and rehearsal for A Line in the Land, a Young Actors Theatre show for Earth Day in partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


That's what every cast member of the intensive classes brought into rehearsal. Cups, cans, bits of metal, plastic, rope. Even parts of a washing machine were strewn across the floor of Studio 3. We weren't trying to litter our IMA rehearsal space-- no, we were creating the world of our play. A Line in the Land is a show about kids bringing life back to a scorched earth. It is a show about how anyone, and anything, can make a difference. Our cast brought things that would have otherwise been thrown away in their own homes, to give these objects new life in the world of this show. Plastic, rusty metal, bits of rope and old shoelaces-- these are the things that the characters of A Line in the Land would have at their disposal.

The end of the world comes with solar flares that burn the earth to a crisp. The grass dries up and turns to dust. The seas evaporate and leave only salt. The last of humanity waits out the worst in underground bunkers, and their children are named for the things they miss. Azalea, a flower that is only a memory. Cyan, the color of the sky before the clouds themselves became dust. Andromeda and Capella, sisters named for the brightest and closest stars in the sky. These are the children who first leave the bunkers, who grow genetically modified plants and guard their dwindling water supplies as their parents leave to scavenge anything useful from the wrecks that were cities. 

It's understandable that these people wouldn't have many. . .traditional supplies left over. So they improvise. A milk jug as a satchel, sticks of charcoal as their only writing utensils, a pot for literally anything they can use it for. One character carries an egg carton with a rock collection, and has no idea that egg cartons were used for anything else. Scavenging can bring the rare treasures-- a real soccer ball, a telescope. But most of what these survivors use are what we would consider garbage. 

This garbage also serves as a parallel to what each character in our play is attempting to achieve: they take something that seems hopeless and forgettable and try to give it new life. As a writer-- and that's what I'm doing for the Intensive show, I'm the student playwright-- that's an idea that really fascinates me. Taking things that maybe aren't so shiny anymore and bringing them to light.

When you're working on a devised theatre piece like this, things can seem a little jumbled and messy at first. You start with an idea, with slices of a vision, and work with the cast over time to create a world and all the moments and stories that happen in it. When you're part of that process it can feel like creating a universe from scraps. But that's just the nature of the process. Seeing the actors take this seemingly strange idea and turn it into a show is endlessly exciting. We're transforming this trash into tools for each character, but each character is also transforming this show. It really is incredible.

A Line in the Land is coming to the Toby Theatre April 21 and 22. Buy or reserve your tickets here. Our special performance for schools on April 21 is free to attend-- classroom extension activity lesson plans available! Contact to register your school group.